CHAMPION - The state cross country meet may be just under two months away, but the Girard Indians girls' cross country team has the meet in its sights.
Despite injuries and holding some runners back, the Girard girls won the Ray Sweeney Invitational by four points over Geneva Saturday morning.
"We looked solid today," Girard coach Keith Brown said. "We weren't even 100 percent healthy today. We had a couple of runners that we were holding back a little bit, and we still finished strong. It definitely gives us the confidence that we're looking for - that we can make it to state this year."
Freshman Domenique Hall led the Indians with her fourth-place finish and a time of 21:18. Hall finished the race strong, moving up three spots in the final half of the race.
Brown said that the freshman runner could be the key to Girard making a run at the state meet this year.
"Domenique running strong will be a definite boost for the team," Brown said. "Most of the top finishers have been here a little longer than Domenique, they have more experience but they're excited about the way she runs and that she can time-wise help lead them to a lot of championships."
For Hall, running five kilometers is a new experience, and because of her inexperience, she said that she is shocked by her high finish.
"It feels pretty good," Hall said. "I didn't think that I would get up that far I'm just working on breathing and getting up there with the (older) girls because I haven't done this before."
As much as Hall's high-placing helps, the Indians also try to group together to push forward, and that was on full display Saturday.
In the first half mile, a group of four runners banded together toward the front of the main pack. As the race progressed, the group split in two, with Tina Boyles and Taylor Harshbarger in one and Jackie Butler and Courtney Williams in another.
Boyles and Harshbarger stuck together until the sprint in and finished in 13th and 14th place. Bulter, meanwhile, pulled away from Williams toward the end, beating Williams by almost 18 seconds.
Brown said he likes this group running mentality.
"Whenever you can get a group of runners running together, it encourages everybody to pick up the pace and finish strong together," Brown said. "No doubt, it definitely helps out."
This win has raised the hopes of Girard going to Columbus, despite the fact that Girard didn't qualify for the regional meet last season.
"It makes us feel confident that we're going to make it to State for sure this year," Harshbarger said.
As for the high school boys' race, Jefferson dominated, totaling 44 points. Lakeside finished in a distant second, 26 points behind, and Pymatuning Valley rounded out the top three with 117 points.
Mathew Kantor led Jefferson by winning the individual crown with a time of 17:49. Carpe Diem Academy's Nathaniel Toth, Lakeside's Brady Bunnel, Middlefield Cardinal's Adam Fills and Mineral Ridge's Logan Smith rounded out the top five individuals.